United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.
Randall Jackson asks the Court to reconsider and vacate, Doc.
180, two Orders previously entered in this case: an Order
denying Jackson's motion for partial summary judgment,
Doc. 153 (entered 9/26/2016), and an Order denying
Jackson's second motion for class certification, Doc. 167
(entered 1/30/2017). The motion is denied.
is an atheist. Following convictions relating to driving
while intoxicated, he was incarcerated in Missouri Department
of Corrections prisons from 2006-2008 and 2010-2014. Jackson
originally filed this case pro se in 2012, alleging
that the Missouri Department of Corrections violated his
rights under the First Amendment. He alleged that he was
subject to a parole stipulation requiring him to attend and
complete a substance abuse program, and that the Department
was coercing him to participate in religion-based
programming, Alcoholics Anonymous, in order to gain access to
the benefit of early parole.
Hon. Fernando Gaitan dismissed the case with prejudice under
28 U.S.C. § 1915, but the decision was reversed on
Jackson's appeal. Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537
(8th Cir. 2014); Doc. 21. The Eighth Circuit held that
while inmates have no constitutional right to early parole,
Jackson did have the right to be free from unconstitutional
burdens when availing himself of existing ways to access the
benefit of early parole. The Eighth Circuit held that he had
“pled facts sufficient to state a claim that a parole
stipulation requiring him to attend and complete a substance
abuse program with religious content in order to be eligible
for early parole violates the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment.” 747 F.3d at 543; Doc. 21, p. 8.
then filed his First Amended Complaint, including class
allegations. Doc. 42. Jackson alleged that he is a sincere
and committed atheist, and that his practice of atheism
includes not participating in prayer to supernatural beings;
accepting responsibility for his own life; and refusing to
admit that ultimate responsibility for his actions depends on
the intervention of a supernatural being. Doc. 42, pp. 12-13,
¶¶ 38 and 40. He alleged that the Department's
repeated refusal to permit him to be expressly and
specifically identified as an atheist in his prison file
violates the First Amendment and RLUIPA, and asked that the
Department be required to amend its forms to permit an inmate
to indicate his religious preference as atheism, and to be
identified on the face sheet in his prison files as an
atheist. Id. at pp. 35-36. Jackson also alleged that
officials from the Department, and Gateway Foundations, Inc.,
the company that the Department hired to administer substance
abuse treatment programs in the Missouri prisons, violated
his rights as an atheist by requiring him to participate in
substance abuse treatment programs in the prisons such as
Alcoholics Anonymous, which requires its participants to
recognize and rely upon a “Higher Power” to
remedy their problems with alcohol. Jackson made claims on
behalf of himself and a putative class under both: (1) 42
U.S.C. § 1983, through the First and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution; and (2) the
Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C.
February 2015, Judge Gaitan granted in part the State
Defendants' motion to dismiss. Doc. 83 (Order dated
2/16/2015). In May 2015, the judge entered an Order
denying Jackson's first motion for class certification
without prejudice, and permitting Jackson to file another
motion after discovery and rulings on summary judgment. Doc.
96 (Order dated 5/8/2015). The primary reason the judge
denied the motion was Jackson's failure to demonstrate
numerosity under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). Defendant Gateway and
Cummins' motion to dismiss was denied in June 2015. Doc.
106 (Order dated 6/23/2015).
discovery, Jackson moved for summary judgment on his claim
that certain Missouri Department of Corrections practices
should be declared unconstitutional and
enjoined. Defendants moved for summary judgment on
all claims. Judge Gaitan denied Jackson's motion, ruling
that the claim for equitable relief had become moot when
Jackson was released from prison in December 2014, and
granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment with
respect to that claim. Doc. 153 (Order dated 9/26/2016). The
judge further granted the Defendants' motions for summary
judgment with respect to Jackson's claim that the
Department of Corrections' refusal to permit him to
expressly identify himself as an atheist on prison forms
violated his First Amendment rights, as well as Jackson's
claim for individual damages under RLUIPA.
then moved for class certification for a second time, seeking
to represent the following classes under Fed.R.Civ.P.
• All prisoners who are eligible or ordered to receive
substance abuse treatment in one of MDOC's substance
abuse treatment programs and who would object to the
faith-based requirements of those programs, if MDOC made
clear the availability of a genuinely secular,
non-faith-based program, and the prisoners could trust MDOC
not to prolong their custody because they objected to the
religious components or selected a secular path.
• All prisoners in MDOC's custody who do not believe
in a god.
Doc. 155, p. 10. Jackson sought only declaratory and
injunctive relief for these proposed classes. Judge Gaitan
denied the motion to certify, on the bases that Jackson
failed to meet any of the requirements of Rule 23(a), and
that the mootness of Jackson's claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief meant the Rules Enabling Act operated to
prohibit Jackson from serving as a class representative. Doc.
167 (Order dated 1/30/2017). Jackson filed a petition for
leave to file an interlocutory appeal in the Eighth Circuit,
which was denied. Doc. 169 (Court of Appeals Judgment dated
Gaitan subsequently recused himself from this case, Doc. 172
(Order dated 3/24/2017), and the case was randomly
motion to reconsider and vacate, Jackson asks this Court to
review Judge Gaitan's rulings de novo, and
identifies the following reasons why his motion should be
• “Judge Gaitan incorrectly ruled that
plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief are
• “Judge Gaitan erred in finding that
plaintiff…cannot be a class representative because he
is no longer subject to the policies he challenges.”
• “Judge Gaitan incorrectly granted summary
judgment against plaintiff on his claim that the State's
refusal to permit him to accurately identify his religion as
‘atheism' on prison identification forms [in
violation of] the First Amendment and RLUIPA.”
• “Judge Gaitan erred in denying plaintiff's
second motion for class certification[, ]” specifically
because “a. Certifying plaintiff's proposed class
does not violate the Rules Enabling Act” and “b.
Numerous people are subject to and offended by [the Missouri
Department of Correction's challenged policies.”
Doc. 180, pp. 24, 25, 27, 31, and 33 of 38.
The standard for reconsideration of the two Orders.
a district court has broad discretion in determining whether
to grant a motion to reconsider. In re Levaquin Products
Liab. Litig., 739 F.3d 401, 404 (8th Cir.
2014). However, such a motion “serve[s] a limited
function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to
present newly discovered evidence.” Arnold v. Sec.
Servs., Inc., 627 F.3d 716, 721 (8th Cir.
2010). It “is not a vehicle for simple reargument on
the merits.” Broadway v. Norris, 193 F.3d 987,
990 (8th Cir. 1999). In other words, motions to
reconsider do not generally start over consideration of
argues, however, that Judge Gaitan's impartiality may be
called into question in view of the timing of the recusal,
i.e., the judge had already presided over the case
for several years, Doc. 180, pp. 22-23 of 28, and because a
portion of the ruling on Jackson's motion for summary
judgment “is internally inconsistent, ” which
“shows bias against” him, Doc. 186, p. 2.
Therefore, he argues, this Court should consider the Orders
de novo. Doc. 189, p. 23 of 28 (and citations
therein). Nothing in Jackson's motion to reconsider
convinces this Court that de novo review is
Gaitan's recusal order simply states that he recuses and
directs that the case be transferred. Doc. 171. There are, of
course, numerous reasons why a judge may recuse from a case
over which he has presided for several years, from avoiding
having to travel to conduct trial in another city, to
choosing to decrease one's case load, to reasons provided
under 28 U.S.C. § 455, which addresses judicial
disqualification. In any event, “[j]udges are under no
obligation to provide a statement of reasons for
recusal[.]” United States v. Casas, 376 F.3d
20, 23 (1st Cir. 2004). Rather, they are
“presumed to be impartial, and a party seeking recusal
of a judge must bear the substantial burden of proving
otherwise.” Roe v. St. Louis Univ., 746 F.3d
874, 886 (8thCir. 2014) (internal quotations and
citation omitted). Therefore, the Court begins with a
presumption of impartiality.
Jackson's substantial burden to prove otherwise, none of
the authorities that he cites suggests that the timing of the
recusal suffices to show bias or partiality, nor is the Court
aware of any such authority. It is also well-established that
“adverse rulings alone are not evidence of bias.”
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994).
Indeed, a contrary inference would be illogical here,
inasmuch as Judge Gaitan issued adverse rulings against both
Jackson and the Defendants throughout the proceedings. Doc.
153. The Court concludes that whether considered singly or
together, Jackson's arguments ...